Nelson Cruz burst into the mainstream last night with his performance in the Home Run Derby. After a great first round that saw him belt 11 home runs, Cruz muscled his way into the finals against Prince Fielder before falling short.
In all, Cruz finished with 22 home runs, most of which went deep into the St. Louis night. He's known to have "light tower power," and he certainly lived up to that scouting report last night.
While Milwaukee Brewer fans were overjoyed that Prince Fielder became the first Brewers player to win the derby, they were also quite familiar with Cruz. Only three years ago, Cruz was one of the top prospects in the Brewers' minor league system.
The Brewers were scuffling in the summer of 2006 and Doug Melvin decided to be a seller instead of a buyer, although he never admitted to that.
Carlos Lee was the focal point of the trade. He was traded to the Rangers and in return the Brewers got Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero. The Rangers felt they needed another piece in return, as it was likely that Carlos Lee would leave via free agency during the winter.
Cruz became the guy to go as the Brewers had several "promising" outfield prospects. Tony Gwynn, Corey Hart, Dave Krynzel, Michael Brantley, and Ryan Braun all projected to possible outfielders in the big leagues.
Braun and Hart have come through on the potential to become good pros, but the other three are now out of the Brewers' organization.
The thing that made Cruz expendable at the time was his inability to hit a curve ball on a consistent basis. Melvin didn't see Cruz as having as much potential at the others and signed off on the trade.
Obviously Cruz has shown that he has figured out breaking pitches having already hit as many home runs this year (22), as he had in his previous four years in the majors.
The power isn't the only aspect to his game. Cruz already has 13 steals and if his teammates continue to play at a high level, he should finish the year with over 100 runs batted in. Josh Hamilton's return from the disabled list will have a huge impact as well.
Even in the minors it's hard to predict which players may turn out to be future stars. Nelson Cruz always had the potential, but was never able to put it all together until this season.
Unfortunately for Doug Melvin, not only did he trade away an All-Star in Carlos Lee, but also one in Nelson Cruz that may turn out to be a mainstay in the All-Star game for the next few years.